Artificial Intelligence (AI) has certainly been a buzzword in tech for a few years. More recently, however, as we moved from hype to reality, it has become evident that AI will impact pretty much every aspect of our future lives, both at a personal and professional level. Products, applications, services, customer support, advertising, you name it, and it will be infused with AI. The impact AI will have is creating strong demand for AI-skilled labor. The World Economic Forum says that AI could create 97 million new jobs by 2025, with roles like data analysts and scientists, AI and machine learning specialists, and big data specialists. In addition, a recent EdScoop survey of 246 educators, administrators and IT decision-makers in higher education shows that 73% of educators report an increasing demand by employers for graduates with AI-related skills.
Intel recently announced a significant expansion of its Intel AI for Workforce Program. An initiative started in 2020 with the Maricopa County Community College District part of the Intel 2030 RISE goals and global impact challenges, which aims to partner with 30 governments and 30,000 institutions worldwide to provide training in AI for 30 million people.
In partnership with Dell Technologies, this newly expanded program will provide technical expertise and infrastructure to help students gain the necessary skills in the field of AI. 18 schools across 11 U.S. states will add to this program so that attending students taking the course will receive a certificate or an associate degree in AI. The work does not stop here. Intel and Dell Technologies plan to expand to 50 more community and vocational colleges in 2022. The two tech giants are not just funding the courses, they are supporting them with technical and human resources. Dell Technologies provides technical expertise to the schools on how best to configure AI labs for teaching in-person, hybrid and online students. Intel delivers over 200 hours of educational content, including slides for the instructors, workbooks for the students and assessments.
AI is a vast field and the program focuses on three key AI technologies: computer vision, natural language processing and statistical methods. The courses provided will focus on technical skills such as data collection, computer vision, AI model training, coding, but also on the societal impacts and ethics of AI technology. The instructional material includes industry use cases that can be solved with no-code AI tools to build your own AI model. Individual community colleges pick and choose the content and create their own AI courses.
In a video interview, Gregory M. Bryant, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Client Computing Group at Intel Corporation, spoke proudly of the initiative, particularly about the focus on community colleges opening up opportunities for under-represented groups to get skills that will lead them to better-paying jobs. "This program is good for the economic advancement of under-represented groups, but it is also good for the advancement of diversity in tech, something Intel cares deeply about and absolutely critical in the development of AI and Machine Learning (ML)," says Bryant.
Gregory M. Bryant, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Client Computing Group at Intel Corporation
I could not agree more! Data from the American Association of Community Colleges shows that on a national basis, 57% of community college students are women, 27% identify as Hispanic, 13% as Black, and 6% as Asian/Pacific Islander. Focusing the program on these schools and working at both the educator and student level shows Intel's intentionality in impacting the community at different levels. The need is real, as proven by the fact that 42% of community colleges do not currently offer specific courses or programs in AI. According to the educators themselves, the biggest reason for the lack of AI-focused classes is a lack of teachers. 52% of the educators surveyed by EdScool said that the biggest obstacle to providing AI instruction is a lack of faculty with the right expertise. I hope that the focus on training educators will also consider diversity as most community colleges still fail to represent their very diverse student body.
"There is no question in my mind that the more voices we bring into a discussion, whether it's inside the classroom or afterward. The more people involved in AI, the better chance we have of getting a better outcome and lessening some of the concerns people might have on AI," adds Bryant. Many studies have pointed to the bias born from AI systems designed by teams that lack diversity, but the problem does not stop there. When we look at the support for AI, it varies greatly depending on gender, ethnicity, education and income. Not surprisingly, white, wealthy, educated men tend to show the most support for AI, while under-represented groups, many of whom might be in jobs with a high risk of automation, are the most skeptical. Reaching underrepresented groups through community colleges will grow understanding and diversity in the field.
"Overall, I think we're still in the very early innings of AI and machine learning's ability to positively impact a wide set of industries. I get really excited because I think this program is happening at the right time to enable these students to come out and participate in shaping the future and fuel the growth while society reaping the rewards of a more diverse and inclusive innovation process," concludes Bryant.